Gleebooks Education 

October 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Thursday, October 12, 2017

Gleebooks Education No 56 , October 2017

Welcome to the last newsletter for 2017, this will be our final edition of Book News, in its current form. Rich as ever (we hope) in a broad and sensitive overview of the best in new releases in the second half of the year. As always, credit to our panel of children's book experts (Lynndy, Louise and Kate) who have personally read and reviewed the books on show, with particular care to ensure that age, gender and cultural needs are all catered for.

Gleebooks has been lucky to bring its own expertise to the model which Kate Shepherd introduced to her schools customers many years ago. We thank Kate for her enthusiastic involvement since Gleebooks bought AustralEd in 2010, and wish her well in retirement. Although the newsletter will no longer be produced, we will continue to offer our international schools diligent and speedy customer service, and with access to our monthly updates on our website, where Lynndy and Louise review our monthly highlights. Please don't hesitate to ask us, we're here to help!

Reviews for the 2017 CBCA award winners, honour books and shortlist can be found here:

Art Books about India

A publisher that is relatively new to us is Tara Books, established some 20 years ago in Chennai, India by the Author Gita Wolf, she set out to create an inclusive organization, working with a local printing collective and folk artists from across the country, they are incredibly successful at representing Indian artistic traditions in a rich and unique way. I encourage you to have a look at their website (some pages are currently under construction)
Kate has reviewed two of their titles;

This Truck has got to be Special by Anjum Rana Illustration design Samer Kulavoor Truck art Hakeen Nawaz & Amer Khan hb 9789383145423 $30.00
Anyone who has seen the amazing Pakistani trucks covered with brilliantly coloured designs and paintings of animals will be delighted with this book as it celebrates the work of the truck artists. This picture book is a collaboration between a Pakistani writer, two Pakistani truck artists and an Indian illustrator. It tells the story of Gul, a truck driver who finally owns his own truck and wants it to be painted just beautifully. The book describes how Gul and the truck artist work together on the design for the artwork on the truck. It also describes his life as a truck driver in Pakistan and the routes in Northern Pakistan where he travels. The design of the book are striking in that the background illustration is in black and white while the art on the truck appears in a burst of colour. At the end of the book there is a description of how the book came about and some information on truck art. This is a fascinating book of special interest to art teachers. (9–16 years) KS

The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam with Gita Wolf & Sirish Rao hb 9788192317120 $25.00
This is a remarkable book in so many ways. Bhajju Shyam was brought up in a tribal village in the jungle but, as a young man, he learnt how to paint in the tradition of the Gond artists. He became very well known and was invited to go to London to paint the walls of a new restaurant. For him, a tribal man to travel in a plane and then to live in a city such as London was an extraordinary experience. This book shows us Bhajju Shyam’s unique vision of his experiences, through text and paintings. Gond artists are not interested in portraying what they see realistically; theirs is a world of feelings and imagination. Bhajju was amazed at the experience of flying and he felt he must be upside down since the clouds were below. The idea of an underground train made him think of a train snuggling through the earth like a giant earthworm. He was surprised that English people seem to change character when they enter a pub; they become happier and laugh a lot. He draws them as bats since they wear dark clothes and come out at twilight and make loud noises. In London, he found that everyone checked their watches all the time, whereas in his village the rooster would wake him up. His stunning painting of Big Ben with the clock face superimposed on the head of a rooster combines two symbols; Big Ben, the symbol of time in London and the rooster, the symbol of time for Gond people. He marvelled at what he saw in London and because he had no language to communicate his feelings to those around him, his impressions became all the more vivid. This is a stunning picture book, beautifully illustrated and produced. There is a fascinating section at the end of the book where the publishers describe how they met Bhajju and listened to his stories about his travel and conceived the idea of combining his own words and paintings in a book conveying a Gond view of London. The title compares Bhajju’s view of London with Kipling’s much earlier view of India. (7 years to adult) KS

Picture Books

One Little Goat
by Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner hb 9781742976921 $25.00
There are many traditional nursery rhymes with a similar theme but this one is exceptional because of the rhythm of the repetition of certain lines and the vibrancy of Andrew Joyner’s lively illustrations. Even the placing of the text on the page encourages the reader to read the rhymes aloud with greater expression and rhythm. It is a nonsense chain tale like the Old Lady and the Fly and is based on a traditional tale that dates back to at least to the C17th. It is sung and enjoyed all over the world at the end of the Jewish Passover. For videos showing a number of variations of the song and for more information, see Ursula Dubosarsky’s website, Australian. (3–6 years) KS

Mr Friend Tertius by Corinne Fenton & Owen Swan (illus) hb 9781760113827 $25.00
This is a charming, simply written true story told from the perspective of Arthur Cooper, a young British Intelligence Officer who rescued a baby gibbon in a busy Hong Kong market in 1941. He called the gibbon Tertius and it became a much loved affectionate and mischievous companion. When Arthur Cooper was instructed to leave Hong Kong because of the threatening war, he determined he couldn’t leave Tertius behind and so he took the gibbon first to Singapore and then with the war even closer, to Jakarta, finally escaping to Fremantle. Tertius knew he had to keep quiet and out of sight in these escapes. However, when they were confronted by customs officials in Melbourne, they could no longer stay together but a compromise was made and Tertius was put into the zoo where the zookeeper’s wife took him home with her each evening. The understated simplicity of this story is perfectly matched by the softly muted colours of the illustrations faithfully recreating details of the historical period of the story. It brings to life an aspect of life in the 1940s in Hong Kong and Singapore and then in Australia through this story of the friendship between a man and his gibbon.
Australian. (5–8 years) KS

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith hb 9781509840557 $25.00
It was a perfect day for cat basking in the sun among the daffodils, and for dog sitting in the cool water of the wading pool and for bird eating fresh birdseed. But all is completely disrupted when bear comes visiting and takes over birdseed, the cool water and finally napping in the warmth of the flower bed. The story is very simple depending on the repetition of the phrase “It was a perfect day” with a different emphasis as bear arrives. It is delightful book with engaging illustrations and will especially bring pleasure when read aloud to young children. (3–5 years) KS

Ruben by Bruce Whatley hb 9781743810354 $30.00
Whatley, one of Australia’s best-known illustrators, devoted ten years to the creation of this picture book set in the not-too-distant future. Ruben is a young boy surviving in a derelict city. He ventures out every day to find what he needs to survive but it is getting harder and he needs to venture deeper into the heart of Block City. When Ruben meets Koji, another refugee from the industrial wastelands, he realizes that by combining their knowledge and accumulated objects escape is not only essential, but possible. The ambiguity of the ending is deliberate, prompting discussion and re-reading. Whatley combined graphite pencil and photographs in Cinema 4D to produce haunting images in this exquisitely detailed book he regards as his best yet. Australian. (5-10 years) LB


The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr pb 9780141368511 $20.00
This is a challenging book. Flora Banks can only remember things that happened to her up to the age of ten. She has been told that this was due to an operation to remove a brain tumour. Everything after that time she can only remember for a short time before the memory fades away – until the age of seventeen when she kisses a boy and that memory stays with her. Such a momentous event for her! She is determined to travel to Norway by herself to find this boy since she thinks this is the key to getting back her memory. Flora tells her story in the first person and because of her memory loss, she repeats herself a lot and writes copious notes to remind herself of who she is, what is happening and what she needs to do. The reader becomes very involved in her story and imagines what it would be like to suffer from this debilitating condition. Written from Flora’s perspective, the narrative is unreliable since she remembers so little. The ending contains many twists and surprises. It is an absorbing read. (13–18 years) KS

The Family with Two Front Doors
by Anna Ciddor pb 9781925266641 $15.00
It is because Anna Ciddor’s grandmother was able to recall her life in such detail as a girl in a large Hasidic family in Lublin in Poland in the 1920s that Anna Ciddor had the material to write this lively book about the family of nine children in which Papa was a rabbi and Mama was a wonderfully organised woman whose life revolved around ceremonies for the Sabbath and festivities for the family. The family was so large that the family needed two apartments and so they had two front doors. The story is told through the eyes of mischievous Yakov who was 8 and bubbly Naomi who was 10 years old. All the children are very different but they are all looking forward with great excitement to the wedding of Adina who is only 15 years old and has never met her prospective husband. Adina has many conflicting emotions concerning this but overall it is a happy and momentous occasion. Anna Ciddor wanted to recreate the family life of her grandmother and spent years researching and visiting Lublin where the building with the two apartments is still standing. She wanted to emphasise the vibrancy, love and warmth of this Jewish family with different customs but which in many ways is an ordinary family to which children will easily relate. The author succeeds so well that it makes it all the more shocking to realise that of the whole family, only Naomi and her two sisters survived the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The Holocaust makes up part of the curriculum for many schools and this book would provide an excellent and different approach showing as it does such an engaging warm Jewish family who were later struck down by such evil. Australian. (8–12 years) KS

The Severed Land
by Maurice Gee pb 9780143770244 $17.00
It’s great to read another Maurice Gee novel for young adults when he announced back in 2009 that he would probably write no more published novels. This one apparently began with the idea of a girl, Fliss, sitting in a tree and looking out over a land in which there was intense fighting and so much hatred. This land is divided from the peaceful forestland where Fliss now lives, by an invisible wall which was created mysteriously by the People and is now kept in place by the will of one very old Man. One day Fliss saves the life of Kirt/Keef a drummer boy who is about to be shot by pulling him to safety through the wall. This is the beginning of a quest to find the girl who is blind but who sings like a nightingale who can save the wall and keep the People safe from the violence and slavery on the other side. The story is packed with action and tension. It is part-adventure, part-fantasy though the wall is really the only magical part of the story. Otherwise it is very realistic in its depiction of cruelty, poverty, greed, slavery and the overwhelming corrupt desire for power. As with all of Maurice Gee’s works, it is very well written with vivid characters, especially Fliss, who is a black escaped slave, but is clever, tough and has many skills. This is a fast paced, gripping read. (12–16 years) KS

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris & James Hart (illus) pb 9780143785859 $15.00
The first book in a new series, this is a deliciously original novel centering around a new teacher, about whom escalatingly wild rumours abound, and his class of decidedly individual children, the Remarkables. Harris, an ex-primary school teacher, injects humour into his story of this atypical teacher who encourages each of his students to reveal unexpected incidents, rewards unusual behaviour, and exceeds those rumours in his first term. Zanily entertaining, I was left eager for the next instalment. Australian. (9-11 years) LB

Flight Path by David Hill pb 9780143770527 $18.00
We meet Jack after his flying training in Canada and on his way to a flying base in England where he will be the bomb-aimer/nose gunner in a team of young airmen flying Lancaster bombers on bombing missions over France and Germany. He is only 18 years old, is a Kiwi and is flying in a crew consisting of an Englishman, an Aussie, a Pole and 3 other Kiwis. The book is set early in 1944 and ends some months after the Allied Invasion of June 6th 1944 but in that short time many colleagues don’t survive. At one stage Jack works out that if 18 planes fail to return then that is 130 men who are killed or taken prisoner. David Hill has obviously done a lot of research for this book and he succeeds in giving us a lot of information about the war overall, as seen through the eyes of a young bomb-aimer who had a very good view of what was happening on the ground below. The crews are sent on exhausting missions, often all night, three or four times each week. Through Jack’s eyes, we see the build up to the Allied Invasion and the Invasion itself, also the launch pads for the V2 missiles causing so much destruction to the civilians in cities in England and also the destruction that the bombers cause when they bomb cities like Berlin. We get to know the different attitudes of the airmen towards to the Germans and the importance of the very tight bond which developed between the bomber crews. It describes the conditions in wartime Britain and his growing love for a young English woman. Some of the atrocities committed early in the war in war torn Poland are described through the eyes of the Polish co-pilot. While some want to take revenge on all Germans, others are aware that many Germans are caught up in a war that they do not support. There is plenty to discuss in this gripping story which will keep alive for a new generation a very important part of the history of WW2.
(10–15 years) KS

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky
by Robert Newton pb 9780143309307 $18.00
I found the first few pages of the book so disturbing that I almost didn’t keep on reading but I did and was glad. Lexie is an engaging character. She lives in very tough Commission housing. Her father died in a car accident and her mother can’t cope with life and takes drugs. Lexie is struggling but she has a nerdish friend Davey who helps even when he would prefer not to. When Lexie witnesses the violent incident described in the first few pages, she determines to befriend the Creeper, an old man. They meet by chance on the rooftop of the apartment block. His real name is Mr Romanov and he has lost so much that he feels there is nothing left to live for. However his new friendship with Lexie and Davey brings some surprising changes for all of them. Robert Newton tackles difficult themes, often with humour and always with empathy. This is a story of determination and hope. Australian (12–14 years) KS

Flying Lessons and other stories Edited by Ellen Oh hb 9781101934593 $30.00
Short stories are not usually my favourite form of writing. I often find that they are just too short! I prefer writing in which I can become engaged with the characters for longer. However having said that, there were a few stories in this collection which were so impressive. They were succinct, intriguing and perfect in their brevity; in the glimpse they gave of a character’s life, sometimes a glimpse into a world about which I know very little. Matt de la Pena’s story “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” was like that. It was written in a basketball idiom which I was not at all familiar, and yet it had an immediacy, a vibrancy which really captured my attention. Surprisingly, it is written in the second person but from the perspective of a Mexican teenager who lives for basketball.
“For people like you, ball is more than just ball.
It’s a way out.”
The other outstanding story is by Kwame Alexander. (See the review above for Out of Wonder: Poems celebrating Poets.) The story is called “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents”: A Story-in-Verse. The heading is How to write a memoir since this was the assignment set by the English teacher Mr Preston. Monk knows that a memoir is based on fact but he likes to include a little fiction. So written in the first person, Monk describes himself as a twelve year old kid who was totally uncool until he bashed his head in a car accident. After that he could hear what people were thinking. His verse story about the effect this still has on him is very funny and very clever. The other very different stories in the collection are from diverse backgrounds. They are all American and are dedicated to the memory of Walter Dean Myers. Ellen Oh is the cofounder of We Need Diverse Books and this was the motivation behind her choice of such a wide ranging collection from ten very different authors. For Middle School students. (12–15 years) KS

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel hb 9781910989579 $25.00
I had never heard of the Bone Wars which is the term used to describe the intense and bitter rivalry between two famous American palaeontologists in the mid 1800s as they competed with each other to find the largest and most spectacular dinosaur bones in the Badlands of the mid-West. Each man did all he could to thwart the other. Kenneth Oppel has faithfully described the events of one expedition to the Badlands in which both palaeontologists ended up camped near each other. However in this story Oppel has added intrigue and romance by adding to the expedition Cartland’s teenage daughter who is determined to prove herself as a worthy aspiring palaeontologist. Bolt is also accompanied by a son who is equally enthusiastic about making a momentous discovery. The growing romantic attachment between these two young people set against the intense rivalry of the two fathers makes for very entertaining reading. However Oppel also vividly describes the background to the story in which the Sioux Indians had been pushed from their sacred lands and treaties had been dishonoured. In this expedition, Cartland also desecrates their burial platforms. The impact of railways in opening new territory is described as well as the position of women in society. It is clear that a young woman like Rachel Cartland with her strong desire to be a palaeontologist and to go to University was regarded as foolhardy and improper. It is an intriguing, fast-paced and informative story. Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt share the telling of the story through alternating narratives adding to our insight into dastardly happenings and exciting discoveries in each camp and also the feelings of the two young people. (14–18 years) KS

Poe: Stories and Poems
adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds hb 9780763681128 $30.00This is a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s best-known short stories in all their chilling glory, along with three of his acclaimed poems. Hinds has interpreted Poe’s stories of horror and human malfeasance in graphic format, losing none of the darkness of Poe’s original works. Shiver factor is turned way up, and the art shares the starring role. (12-17 years) LB


What is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Michael Rosen pb 9781844287635 $15.00
This is a long discussion of Michael Rosen’s thoughts on poetry. He doesn’t come up with a definitive definition of what is poetry - he doesn’t want to. However he does discuss in detail his thoughts about poetry and what it does and he gives many examples of different poems, both modern and classic, by different poets and discusses them. He also talks about some of his own poems and what motivated him to write them. He discusses ways students could start to write a poem and gives lots of ideas on how to keep writing and finally he gives advice on technical points such as rhyme and rhythm. The book is so full of ideas and things to discuss that it would be an invaluable handbook for teachers and students interested in poetry. (11 years up) KS


Stories of Art (pb $18.00) is a new Korean series of really playful, informative books about famous artists. Various illustrators have taken different artists and explored their artistic practices, their life stories, and their subject matter. Breugel, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas are just some of the artists; I particularly like the books about Seurat (Joining the Dots), and Monet (Seen From a Distance). Paper collage and illustration are used throughout the books to good effect, and the good colour reproductions of the artwork are liberally spread throughout each book. These books would be great fun for 5-8 year olds, and in some cases even younger children. LP
Joining the Dots – The Art of Seurat 9781925234992
Let’s Go on a Picnic – The Art of Millet 9781925234978
Patterns From Nature – The Art of Klimt 9781925235005
People in the Paintings – The Art of Bruegel 9781925234961
Putting Faces to Names – The Art of Raphael 9781925234954
The Quiet Observer – The Art of Degas 9781925234985


Lion: A Long Way Home Young Readers’ Edition by Saroo Brierley pb 9780143784760 $17.00

Saroo’s amazing story is now well known since it has recently been made into a popular movie. However you were perhaps not aware that it has now been published in a Young Readers’ Edition. It is a truly remarkable story of how a five year boy from a very poor family in India became lost on a train in India and travelled till he ended up at the main railway station in Kolkata. Somehow he managed to survive and after some months, he was lucky enough to be placed in an orphanage and was then adopted by a couple in Tasmania. He was very happy with his new life but also wanted to find his Indian family. When the new technology of Google Earth became available, he spent years searching the railway lines out of Kolkata, trying to find the familiar landmarks distinguishing his village and a nearby town. Miraculously he found the village and then travelled back to meet his family. There are so many elements of this story that are incredible but perhaps the most astonishing is the way Saroo consciously made sure he maintained his memory of the streets where he had lived and the way to the railway station and other landmarks. Even at the age of five, he didn’t want to forget because he wanted to go back and find his mother, sister and brothers. This would be such an interesting book for discussion. Saroo’s family was very close and loving even though they lived in extreme poverty. Since his mother had to work all day, Saroo at the age of four or five looked after his little sister when she was just one or two years old. The description of his time in Kolkata is scary. The story is vivid and well written and includes photos of his arrival at the orphanage, his family in Tasmania and also when he goes back to India and sees his family again. Australian (11–14 years) KS

The Egg by Britta Teckentrup hb 9783791372945 $27.00
One of our favourite illustrators, Teckentrup here explores eggs in almost every aspect of their fragile complexity, from Oology to shape, markings and interior structure. She examines an array of birds’ eggs, then extends to other species such as reptiles and mammals. She also addresses eggs in mythology, art, tradition and fairy tales, all depicted in her trademark lushly textured art. The gorgeous presentation and miscellany of facts render this a valuable contribution to any library and oh, such a pleasure to trawl through! (5-9 years) LB

KS Kate Shepherd
LB Lynndy Bennett
LP Louise Pfanner

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